Learning from mistakes

Here’s a day I’d like to change.

Tech school practice, Baltimore Md.

I’ve been thinking. I know that’s a scary thing. A young-liberal-millennial creating thoughts and placing them in a delusional order that makes something understandable — but I am, deal with it.

A young me. Being a nerd. Sleeping in the car.
A young me. Being a nerd. Sleeping in the car.

There is a day that keeps reoccurring in my mind.

I remember my 8th grade year. I just started wrestling. And I had just fallen in love.

The gym was packed. Our middle school rivals showed up. The music pounded. Salty popcorn filled the newly built gymnasium air. It was game day and my first year to wrestle. Actually, let me clarify, it was my first couple of months to wrestle, or weeks rather.

In the locker room, I slid my skinny arms and chubby belly into my compressed superhero spandex of a singlet. I pulled my warm-up hoodie over my embarrassing athletic overalls and peaked through the door and into the crowd.

She was with her friends — laughing without a care in the world — waiting for the match to start.

Just a few nights before I stayed up all night with my best friend chewing Big League grape flavored bubble gum, watching Austin Powers and playing Mario Kart. We listened to Blink 182 and Usher while prank-calling girls.

Well, that night, I called the girl I was in love with. She flirted with me. She wanted to see me, but didn’t accept my invitation to the match; I didn’t think much of it.

And now, she was there. Sitting in the front row. My first reaction was to hide. I was nervous. Mortified. (I didn’t even take my shirt off to swim in front of people I didn’t know.) How could I wear this rubbery contraption covering my body like that black tar thing in Spiderman?

I couldn’t let her see me. I couldn’t let my self be exposed like that. I never played a sport where I was so vulnerable.

I quit.

I walked over to my coach. I looked him in the eye. I told him I couldn’t compete that night.

As he questioned me, I could see the girl over his shoulder. She stared at me. She looked concerned. I immediately avoided eye contact, with everyone.

My coach was disappointed. He didn’t understand what was wrong. I told him my stomach hurt. I went back into the locker room and sat  — quietly. I picked up my 1st generation iPod touch and listened to “I Miss You” by Blink 182.

With every muffled referee whistle and cheer my heart weakened. I cowered in the room. My eyes traced the pattern of the cinderblocks until the match was over. I never looked at that girl ever again. I never even spoke with her. I lied to my parents and told them I didn’t make the team for that match.

I’ve been thinking. This day reoccurs in my mind. Why did this happen? At what point did I lose my ability to fight, to explore, to dream, to compete?

This moment happens to us all. We forget what it is we are moving towards. We get thrown off track and discouraged. We listen to the voices of treason.

I guess that’s one thing I’d like to go back and fix. That one moment. I’d like to walk out on that mat one more time in all of my pudgy-nerd glory. I’d like to flaunt myself around like a matador. I’d like to lose one more time. Just to make it count. Just to prove to myself — I was worth it.

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